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What is a good way to get instant relaxation at work? At home, I can just sleep or play video games. At work, that looks like slacking off, even though I can't concentrate productively while stressed out.

So, what's a good way to power relax from work. Any tricks that don't involve closing eyes?

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Why can't you close your eyes? If you sit in front of the screen, almost nobody will notice the difference. Even if they do, having a 10 minutes break with closed eyes is not slacking off. – Steed Feb 19 '13 at 6:58
@Steed Doesn't really work for laptop sized screens where people are seated opposite each other. Closing eyes doesn't really help much for me, even a 2 minute power nap on the toilet or washing face works better. – Muz Feb 19 '13 at 7:39

I like to go for a short stroll outside. There's no one to bother you and you don't get distracted by work related stuff. It works even better if you avoid busy streets and walk to a nearby park.

Alternatively, you can:

  • walk up and down the stairs in your office building
  • sit on the toilet for a few minutes
  • close the door to your office and turn on some calming music (wear headphones if you share office space)
  • go and make yourself a cup of (green) tea
  • look outside the window for a few minutes
  • do some mindfulness techniques
  • go and chat with a collegue (to get your mind of your work, so don't discuss anything work-related)
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sit on the toilet and Sleep for few minutes. I do it everyday.:) – user1539 Feb 20 '13 at 9:02
Walks don't really apply in my situation, because the office is a single room, no stairs, and leaving it would be to take a walk in the noisy, muddy, scorching hot/wet streets outside :P However, watching music videos with headphones helps a lot. – Muz Feb 21 '13 at 8:29
@Muz if you like listening to music you might also be interested in this answer. – THelper Feb 21 '13 at 8:46
Ha, for some reason all the songs on my 'relaxing' playlist are loud classic rock songs at 120 bpm, so I guess that works best for me. I actually find slow, classical songs stressful. The feeling is similar to driving too slowly down a highway or walking besides a slow person. – Muz Feb 21 '13 at 10:10
+1 for mentioning Mindfulness. Actually, taking a minute for mindfulness training every half an hour is not a bad proposition. – Gruber Mar 3 '13 at 19:31

Key for me is to get up and move about for a few minutes.
I use the Pomodoro technique (though I have doubled my times to 50min work / 10 min break). In my 10 min break I'll usually do something like making a round of tea, walking over to the window and looking out at something (a tree, the cathedral or just the sky).

Sometimes I'll be able to go for a short walk or sit on the toilet, it's amazing how many break through's come to me when I'm sat on the toilet - I think it's just the break and that I'm not trying to solve any problems so my mind is free to solve things its own way without me consciously trying to force the issue.

When I work from home I like to do some exercise; 100 push up challenge, do some chin ups or 10 minutes or so of yoga or tai chi. Harder to do those at work, but if you can find an unused meeting room it's pretty easy to open a kindle and read a few short pages from a book.

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Not trying to solve a problem is the best way to solve a problem! Happens to me all the time (researcher in mathematics here). – Per Alexandersson Feb 20 '13 at 19:32

I have taken to going to the gym in my lunch break every second day - this really clears my mind as I just focus on the workout, and I come back feeling renewed for the afternoon (which is good as mid afternoon is usually my low energy spot)

Aside from that, regular breaks (by Pomodoro or other method) away from your desk - a walk to the coffee machine via the stairs, or a quick walk round the block work wonders.

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So far, the light exercise seems to work quite well. Maybe should ask the boss to add a punching bag to the office :) – Muz Feb 21 '13 at 8:08
@Muz: isn't that what he is there for? ;) – Juha Untinen Sep 12 '14 at 11:42

There is no such thing as "instant" relaxation.

If you cannot leave your desk, then a five-minute mental vacation (or longer if you can swing it), perhaps accompanied with a headphone-driven visualization, or white noise (I like waves or rain), or guided meditation, may be your best bet.

For me, breathing exercises are the easiest solution, and they can be done without headphones, without closing my eyes, while defocused on my screen or looking at something in a notebook etc. in case there's a "real" need to "look busy". I don't go too deeply into the exercises beyond basic in-hold-out patterns (and I sometimes use an app for that if I'm particularly unable to concentrate).

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What works for me is walking away from my desk, preferably outside away from desk area if at all possible. I used to walk around the base of the building outside when it was possible where I work. I also think there's an element to avoiding stress and looking around, for me most people are stressed because they are firefighting, on the back foot and trying to catch up. So the first thing I would do - up front - is take time in the mornings to plan out your day so that you have an overview and more importantly a feeling of control over it.

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Personally, I like eating.

Also, a cup of tea can do wonders, if you're in the mood for it.

Go for a walk around the office. Talk to someone at the watercooler/whatever.

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So far, I do take a few cups of tea a day, but it doesn't help much during high stress moments. Also, snacking would be bad for health in the long run. – Muz Feb 21 '13 at 8:09
@Muz That depends a lot on how you snack. – Dave Newton Feb 22 '13 at 4:11
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Been a while now. I look at what successful people do with this problem aand the answer is meditation. In fact, aabout half of the answers given boils down to meditation - light naps, sitting in the toilet, light exercise, tea. It's more detailed than Dave Newton's answer so I'll answer myself.

The idea behind meditation is to force yourself to focus on something of low mental activity. Breathing exercises are common because it's a way to force focus. Similarly, you can stare at a fire. In modern times, it could be a treadmill, a repititive game like Farmville, or humming along to lyrics on a headphone.

This puts your mind in a low activity state where it can process/store recent info and clear junk resulting from overthinking. It's similar to sleep, except that it can take place within a few minutes and you don't have to worry about the shock of being waken up.

You can't be too relaxed or too focused. Ideally, it's just sitting down but not laying back.

At work, this kind of concentration looks like daydreaming or zoning out, sso thee best alternative is probably sitting on the toilet if you have a work culture with no privacy.

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Listen to soothing songs together with a jasmine tea works better for me:)

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Upvoted to counter the downvote. This is a legitimate option that satisfies the criteria in the question. Why would someone vote this down? – Bernhard Hofmann May 8 '13 at 8:18

Listen to one of your favorite songs. Pink Floyd or something that makes you want to go to the beach. Close your eyes for a moment and visualize the most relaxing place you can think of (I prefer a beach like the one in Lost, without all the crazy stuff). Slow your breathing and focus on each small detail in your daydream. Best to do this with a pair of noise-cancelling headphones!

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